My 2013 fitness regime: the barre part

Barre Fitness gets you a dancer’s body…without dancing!”

I didn’t need Barre Fitness’ persuasion since I already am a dancer (sorta). Full disclosure: I want a ballerina body as much as the next person and to that end (ha!) I’ve owned a copy of The New York City Ballet Workout: Fifty Stretches and Exercises Anyone Can Do For a Strong, Graceful, and Sculpted Body for many years and when my first copy got waterlogged when my apartment flooded, I got another copy; back in December, I was looking into taking some classes at Barreworks in Toronto but its location is very far off my beaten path so I did not sign up; and I had decided anyhow that 2013 is going to be my year of (ballet) dance. Meanwhile, Barre Fitness’ Yaletown location is a 12-minute mad dash of a walk from work and has a new client offer of two weeks of unlimited classes for $40. A single drop-in class class costs $20 and class cards offer a small discount per class. On one credit card busting Saturday morning in bed, I signed up for barre and ballet classes to occupy me for a while.

Sometimes you pick up a 9-week unlimited yoga pass (like I did several years ago) and go only 9 times. Sometimes you pick up a two-week unlimited pass and the end is so near you make fairly good use of it. I tried to sample all the class offerings but didn’t get around to the condensed Xpress Barre class, a special edition Barre + Zumba and Power Barre. Clients are advised to try Power Barre only after attending 20 regular barre classes so I’ll be counting up to that!

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The first lesson I learned was to register early. I did not understand at first how to see beyond the current week’s schedule and thought registration opens on Sunday and a registration frenzy would follow. Actually, registration for a class opens up 10 days before so now I have an Astrid weekly reminder now to register for a Tuesday class 10 days beforehand. When a class fills up with confirmed clients, you can still be added to a 10-person waitlist and if someone drops the class, you could get in. If the waiting list is full, then you’re out of luck for the class.

Before my first session, Yaletown studio manager Alycia Wong gave me a quick tour pointing out the locker area, two single-stall wash/changing rooms and recommended I start off with at set of 2-lb. “light” and 3-lb. “heavy” weights and plant myself at the barre near the mirror to be able to check my alignment. The studio is narrow but bright and the ceilings are high from the space probably having industrial use before. Eucalyptus scent permeates the air as its essential oil is added to the spray we use to wipe down the mats. Each spot for a client has a black memory foam exercise mat providing an absorbent surface, a Fitball and stretching band.

Cardio Barre with Paula Ahead of my first class, I was nervous and worried and wondered if I would tank partway through due to low fitness or bail out because my gimpy ankle (sprained it seven days earlier) gave out. We did aerobics types of cardio (step-touch, grapevine, with some stutter step), shoulder and triceps with the “light” weight and biceps with the “heavy” weights, core exercises in the form of push-ups and planks, crunches with a Fitball between our knees and those dreaded V-sits. The barre workout consisted of pliés done while on demi-pointe and barre stretches. There was a hard glute exercise in there but overall I left the class energized and not wiped out at all.

After my first class, I received an attentive follow-up email and with Alycia, also a social media coordinator, at the helm, the studio puts forth a friendly, interactive and responsive face.

Barre Fitness with Ella I also got into the Friday evening Barre Fitness class when I was originally fifth on the waiting list. A one-hour class at 5:30 leaves plenty of Friday evening left and it seemed like a fantastic idea at the end of a workweek. And I wanted to try an “original” Barre Fitness class. Barre Fitness co-founder Ella’s arm exercises were killer and I have strong arms and use the lightest weights. She got us to do “Butt Three Ways” (on the knees, in pidgeon pose while raising the back knee and in a bridge). I was hoping to see more ballet – and there was marginally more in relevés and more of those weird modified pliés that hurt especially with the aerobics-inspired pulsing. The shorter distance you pulse, the harder it is because it requires more control. The class was lighter on the ab workout but we did push-ups and dips instead using the bar. It seemed harder than Cardio Barre and the next week I heard Ella rate her workouts as more intense.

Double header with Paula – Cardio Barre followed by Classice Barre A week into my unlimited pass, I scheduled a double-header of classes. 5:30 Cardio Barre with Paula for the after-work set. The day before, I finally made it off the waitlist and got into Classic Barre, at 7 pm for the Yaletown set who had dinner before getting some exercise, also with Paula. Would there be a great deal of difference given the instructor was the same…? Cardio Barre kicked my butt with non-stop sets covering shoulders, triceps and biceps with free weights, followed by quads, hamstrings and glutes at the bar, followed by core, abs and back on the ground. I also  tried to be lively during aerobics sets in between that served to keep the heartrate up. Classic Barre with Paula had the exact same zone targeting exercises but we stayed longer in stretches and there was no aerobic element at all. It’s a good class second class for me. As odd as I felt doing it, I hardly think I’m the first person to do the double-header.

Barre Flow with Scovia The Sunday before, I had to take myself off the waitlist for Barre Flow so I had to try it on my last Sunday on my two week unlimited pass! I nabbed first spot on the waitlist back at the beginning of the week so, sure enough, I got into the class by the end of the week. While Barre Flow did not promise any yoga, it is still what I went in expecting-hello, flow yoga? And the class is on a Sunday morning… just be gentle, okay? It ended up more like, “It’s Sunday!! This class is gonna get your butt in gear for the upcoming week!” And it was just what I was looking for-Scovia had the most ballet in her class. As we embarked on the arm exercises with free weights in the center, our legs aren’t just squatting and pulsing. Scovia had us extend one leg behind us and dégagé in time with pumping our arms then we switched in a retiré position-balance and arm and leg workout at once! Her glute exercises were a smidge easier than the sets Paula and Ella give, but she had a focus on hip-opening and turnout which I love from a ballet perspective. (I’m that snobby “ballerina” who puts my feet in fifth position and eschews third position and does a retiré instead of a tree pose.) We worked out until the last few minutes of the hour. It was awesome.

Barre Flow was my favourite workout but there are three reasons why it is not going to be my weekly class for now: the commute time whether by car or transit outweighs the duration of the class while walking there after work is quick; parking rates in Yaletown are horrible; and in my current living arrangement, heading out at that time on a Sunday morning disrupts everyone.

Barre Bootcamp with Scovia On Monday, the day of Barre Bootcamp for which I was confirmed to attend, I was checking out my Barre Fitness profile and noticed that this much-anticipated, secretly dreaded bootcamp class was with Scovia and just the day before, she made Barre Flow a challenge. Oh deary me. Barre Bootcamp would be my first bootcamp anything ever. I simply wanted to make it through but that is open to interpretation, isn’t it? As I waited for class to begin, I heard someone toss around the nickname “Hundred Squat Scovia” and I may have heard one of the co-founders say she did one Scovia class and couldn’t do it again! Uh oh. We started off  at 100% intensity with core exercises and planks and every exercise mercilessly assaulted the muscle group that was targeted. Scovia traded in her Flow attitude and put her Bootcamp hat on, although she did start off the class with the warning, “If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.” Why do people put themselves through things like bootcamp classes? If I didn’t collapse during one of the core exercises, then it was because I’m sure I wasn’t doing it right. The class was intense on the workout, short on breaks and lighter on the barre aspects. You’ll get a tight body and strong body, for sure, but less of a “dancer’s body”.

My usual class will be on Tuesday, Barre Fitness with co-founder Ella which is medium intensity of the classes I sampled and it is spaced well with my usual ballet class that is on Thursday. It will be strange to settle into a lower frequency of classes but I have to work the rest of my life back into my life. Since the studio sent me an irresistible 25% off promo code just as my two-week pass was ending, I’ve purchased a 20-class pass to continue my barre fitness regime!

On this day..